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SOFTBALL: Jessica Mendoza Makes First Stop on Goodwill Tour

Jan. 09, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)

Mendoza Makes First Stop on Goodwill Tour Oklahoma City, Okla.-The ASA is pleased to announce 2008 USA Women's National team member Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) is currently a part of Pro Sports MVP' Olympic Heroes Tour that is touring Afghanistan. The goodwill military tour will feature medalists from the Olympic Games who will travel to Afghanistan and visit with the troops. The group includes: Shawn Crawford, 2-time Olympic Medalist in the 200m and 4x100 relay; Shannon Miller, Seven-time Olympic medalist including winning five medals at the '92 Olympic Games; Angela Ruggiero, 3-time Olympic Medalist in Ice Hockey; and Mike Whitmarsh, silver medal finisher in the men's inaugural Beach Volleyball tournament at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, partnering with Mike Dodd. The group will visit numerous bases throughout Afghanistan as well as Qatar, but will not be provided a schedule until a day or two prior to their departure due to security reasons. All events throughout the 10-day trip will be directed by Pro Sports MVP tour manager Brian Lee who has been involved with over 20 tours to the Middle East region. Mendoza will be blogging about her experience on www.usasoftball.com. Check out her first blog below as her and her fellow Olympians arrive in Doha, Qatar. January 6, 2008 Doha Qatar Hey everyone! Just wanted to check in with everyone, let you know I made it to the Middle East safely and tell you about my first two days here. Well, the first day (after A LOT of flying) we arrived in the small country of Qatar. It is on the Persian Gulf bordering both Kuwait and Saudia Arabia. We were told this is a wealthy country because they are the second largest country in the world producing natural gas. Because of this, the base camp where we are staying, Camp As Sayliyah, is a place for relaxation for many of the troops to come to from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is very interesting; they make a HUGE effort to make this camp feel like home. From the outside, all you see are a block of buildings that look identical and boring, but on the inside there are restaurants and bars, a bowling alley, a gym and even a swimming pool. Every so often troops from Iraq and Afghanistan (and many other countries in the area) get to have a "four day pass" where they come here, do not have to wear their uniforms or set their alarm clock, and most importantly they can get away from the "fireworks" that surround their lives. We were told not to get used to how nice it is here because where we are going (and most other camps) are not like this at all. But it is has been a nice introduction to the Middle East before heading further in. I have really enjoyed listening and getting to know many of the soldiers who are here. I do have to say that as hard as it has been for many of them, the hardest part of all seems to be how long they have been away from home. Especially coming off of the holidays, just us being here and talking about home puts some nostalgic smiles across their faces. Today we did an autograph session for a few hours and met a lot of men and women who are leaving to go back to Iraq tonight. I had a conversation with one young woman (who is a softball player by the way!), and she has been stationed with Iraq civilians to teach them how to fly fighter planes for the past six months. She has to live with Iraqi families, moving around quite a bit, learn the language and eat the food. I thought it was so interesting how young she is and what she has been stationed to do, but is helping the locals and learning more about the culture of the area than many of the people who have been stationed on base for years. After the autographs, we played a volleyball match versus all of the soldiers. We had an Olympic beach volleyball player (Mike Whitmarsh at 6'7), an Olympic gold medal track and field star (Shawn Crawford) an Olympic gymnast (Shannon Miller - at 5'1 might I add, she was out setter) and a three-time Olympic hockey player (Angela Ruggiero). It was pretty ugly at first, but we put it together (our competitiveness really kicking in) and pulled out some good come-from-behind wins. I have had a good time getting to know the other Olympians, their backgrounds, and even their workout regiments (Shawn killed me on an ab workout this morning). Not sure where we are off to next, but we are outta the "vacation zone' for the next week, and from what we are told, things are going to get a lot more interesting. Stay tuned for more updates. I am so proud to call America my home ... Jess